I wanted to take the pulse of professional wrestling by taking a quick down and dirty overview of where the fans thought things are in the current state. Through the last four articles, I confronted what I believed were the four biggest issues when it comes to enjoyable professional wrestling.
Respectively, I asked about show formatting, fan event management, personnel decisions, and individual performances.
And you—the community of Bleacher Report—stepped up to the plate and answered. Here are the results:
Question one: What do you like best about professional wrestling?
In this question, a vote of 57.1 percent said an even mix between story and matches; 28.6 percent wanted more matches and less story. In 14.3 percent of the vote, respondents said matches were their favorite aspect of professional wrestling.
Both the other slots of more story, less matches and story alone remained at 0.
Question two: What would the average fan like to see at a fan access event?
The comments were very supportive of the current format so it was surprising that the vote went in a different path.
At 44.7 percent, voters wanted to add hands-on training to their experience by delving into character creation and even getting some ring time.
Dead even at 23.7 percent, fans wanted to have forums on the history of the sport and the backstage mechanics of show production, while only 7.9 percent felt that the fan events were just fine as they are.
Question three: Do you want to see older wrestlers involved in major storylines?
When asked if they wanted to see older wrestlers involved in major storylines, 61.9 percent polled said yes; 23.8 percent said no, and 14.3 percent didn't feel that it actually mattered.
Question four: What makes a good professional wrestler?
Coinciding with the idea that matches were more important than story, 54.7 percent voted for in-ring performance; however, 32.8 percent felt that character development was the most important aspect. Only 6.3 percent felt that out of ring or the "staged" performances told the tale of a good wrestler.
The overall consensus was that the performer needed a mix of these listed talents to be successful and only the complete package led to the performer being good.
The commentary for this last question opened a whole can of worms that began to get to the crux of what wrestling fans believe they are missing in the modern era of wrestling. The ones most talked about were timing, protocol and credibility.
As one commenter pointed out, there used to be a time when there was a head that would set down absolute rights and wrongs. There was no character attached to this person; they were a commissioner or chairman; and they followed the rules regardless.
Some felt that current wrestling was missing a lot by not having that voice of reason anymore.
Credibility also was discussed a lot. Comments stated that there was an absence of believable character progression and specifically lacking: a personal code of honor that the wrestler followed and didn't deviate from. Credibility was found to be a multi-tiered development that included high quality in ring execution and a minimal character deviation.
The term used was reinvention.This is to make it feel fresh again without changing the core of the character. An example is The Undertaker.
His overall character has been through a myriad of physical changes yet the basis of the character in ring habits and moves, interview, and staged mannerisms have never changed.
Time management became an issue of concern as well.
This included time for storylines, for performers or for title defenses and reigns. Almost everyone commented that it used to be a common occurrence that these things were given a gestation period to actually build.
If the top performers of the last decade had been rated on their initial splash into the big boy wading pool they would've been shelved by the current "instant success" expectations.
We would never have had The Rock who started out as a vanilla fan favorite; Stone Cold, who had been panned by the WCW, and then slammed under The Million Dollar Man for a failed from start gimmick. Or even The Undertaker who I first saw as a replacement Skyscraper in the NWA.
The key is that it took years to find that niche, that place where the fans and the wrestler grew accustomed to the character and their place in the wrestling hierarchy.
The other idea that continued throughout the poll was an overall concern with the quality of matches. It was expressed that they were not as high as they were in the past.
One comment rang true for me:
"The ability of two men (or women) to get into a ring, and by their gestures and actions alone, take you on a rollercoaster ride. They should have the ability to tune up your emotions, and then calm them down again. They should have peaks and valley's in their work, and take you every step of the way, even if you don't want to go.
At the climax of the match, they should give you almost what you want, but not quite, thereby intriguing you to come back the next time, just to see what they'll do to each other, or OTHERS, again.
If a person, having been taken on this fantasy ride, goes out and tells just one person 'Yeah, man, I know wrestling's really FAKE, but did you see him..............?' THAT is success, and that is the very definition of wrestling as it should be," commented Shannon Whitten.
The fans have spoken.